Water and Your Brick Chimney

Keeping It Dry

If you are the proud owners of any kind of fireplace you probably are already aware of the need for regular service whether it is inspections or cleanings in order to keep risk levels as low as possible.  It is recommended by all

water-and-your-brick-chimney-greenville-sc-blue-sky-chimney-sweepsrecognized authorities that we get our chimneys inspected and swept every season to prevent dangerous creosote buildup and to make sure that there are no animals nesting inside the chimneys or terminations.  One area where many home-owners are not expecting to hear about possible issues when they call for a “cleaning” is the exterior of their chimney. It is a surprise that they have damage to their chimney caused simply by water intrusion.

Water is, in fact, one of the leading causes of damage to chimneys.  Keeping as much moisture out of a chimney as possible is critical to lengthening its life.  Conversely, if a chimney goes unprotected from the effects of water intrusion, its life will be shortened.

A chimney is a masonry structure that is mostly exposed to the elements. If the chimney is an exterior chimney, the part above the roof and at least 3 of the 4 walls below the roofline are exposed to a battery of wind, rain, sleet, snow.  These and other climate conditions can cause serious damage to brick and mortar structures. Moisture can get into cracks and holes in the masonry and freeze and thaw causing expansion and contraction which can do structural damage. This will cause more cracks to appear allowing more moisture to get into a chimney potentially compounding problems exponentially. Over time, problems can develop that create a chimney that is unsafe to use and may in fact be in danger of collapsing altogether. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to minimize this risk.

The single most important thing you can do is to have a certified chimney sweep come out and inspect your chimney. Trained technicians are trained to look for signs of present or impending water damage.  Upon evaluation, they may suggest that your chimney needs a new waterproofing treatment.  The good news is, that unless you are seeing evidence of water entry into the home, there is usually time to budget for these recommendations.

While these treatments do not actually make the chimney entirely waterproof, they render it water repellant.   As smoke rises through the chimney, it cools and can produce creosote and moisture. If the chimney were to be rendered completely waterproof, there would be no way for the moisture to escape the chimney and the chimney would be left with a similar problem to water intrusion from the outside — due to the moisture collecting on the INSIDE of the chimney.   A proper chimney waterproofing treatment actually involves the application of a vapor-permeable sealant that allows moist air to escape the chimney but keeps rain and other forms of exterior moisture out. Again, it is very important to allow someone trained regarding chimney maintenance to apply the recommended products. Improper application could cause complications that may be costly to correct.

Another important step to maintaining a safe and dry chimney is to have a properly designed chimney cap installed. Chimney caps perform a variety of jobs.

  • Keeps rain and other precipitation from going into the hole at the top of your chimney.
  • Helps keep animals and debris from entering the chimney.
  • Over-sized lid directs water away from the sides of the chimney directly down the roof.

Another important way to in prevent costly water damage is to make sure that water drainage systems direct the water away from the chimney. If your roof slope directs water towards the chimney or traps in in pools around the base of the chimney, it is much harder to prevent that water from seeping into your chimney. If your roof does channel water toward your chimney

  • Look into gutter systems that can carry that water to another point and off your roof. This is a great opportunity to direct the water into rainwater buckets that can be used to water plants or wash cars.
  • Make sure that your chimney has a cricket (or saddle) if the size of your chimney and its configuration in relation to the roof.

The single most important thing to take away from all of this is to have your chimney inspected by a certified chimney sweep at least once a year.  It is much better to catch problems like these early to prevent a costly repair on down the line. If you take the proper preventative steps it could be the difference between having a safe and functional fireplace and having a pile of bricks on the roof or on the ground beside the house.

Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth can provide excellent service to insure preserving the wellness of your chimney. Our chimney sweep inspection services are just one of many useful services we provide. We have been serving SC’s Upstate Area for nearly 37 years now. It is our sincere pleasure to continue to help you keep fire in its place in your home.

By Renee Brigman | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment